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Parental leave policies failing fathers

Specsavers has said that a new 12 weeks' fathers' leave policy as recommended by a House of Commons committee “would improve uptake”

03 Apr 2018 by Andrew McClean

The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee has stated that current policies supporting fathers in the workplace are failing on their promises.

A call has also been made to the Government to reform workplace policies to ensure that they meet the needs of modern families.

The comments were made in the Fathers and the workplace report, which recommends that a new policy of 12 weeks’ standalone fathers’ leave would be a better alternative to the current shared parental leave policy. 

Currently, parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave, of which 37 weeks is paid, if they meet certain criteria. 

Chair of the committee, Maria Miller MP, said that current policies do not support the increasing number of fathers who want to take an equal share of childcare when their children are young. 

“While the Government has taken positive steps forward and has good intentions, workplace policies have not kept up with the social changes in people's everyday lives,” Ms Miller said.

Supporting fathers-to-be

Specsavers told OT that shared parental leave uptake is “relatively low” across its business, with only 20 people at its stores and offices making use of the policy since it came into effect in April 2015.

The multiple said that its HR team supports fathers-to-be on the full details of shared parental leave, the impact on pay and how they would like to return to work. 

“We have a 'Becoming a parent' section in the colleague handbook that describes all of our family friendly policies, including shared parental leave. All colleagues in stores and support offices receive this handbook when they join us, and the policies are also on our intranet. Our shared parental leave policies are in line with the legal requirement,” a Specsavers spokesperson said. 

The multiple added that it believes the report’s recommendations present an opportunity to improve uptake. 

“The issue, as the Women and Equalities Committee has identified, is almost certainly one of pay rather than of time off, as shared parental leave is paid at the statutory level (£145.18 a week). A 12 weeks' fathers' leave policy would improve uptake but only if employers could afford to top up the statutory pay to full pay,” Specsavers shared. 

OT also contacted Vision Express, Optical Express and Boots Opticians, who did not offer a response. 

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